So you want to be a social media manager?
If you’re looking to be a social media manager, whether freelance or employed, then there are things you can do which can help you on your chosen career path. Although there are some official accredited courses you can do which will prove your credentials, the industry is still developing and the choice of courses is still fairly slim.
In the absence of qualifications, experience is everything. Even if you have a qualification in something related, a degree in marketing for example, you will still need to convince an employer or client that you are capable of transferring this knowledge to something as specific as social media marketing. If your marketing degree contained modules in social media marketing, then this is handy, but real-world experience is still a must.
Social media marketing for commercial purposes is not as easy as it looks. People ask me if it’s little more than ‘arsing around on Twitter all day’ and to some extents, it does look this way. However, there are technical things which take time to learn, and indeed an etiquette. If you’ve used Twitter on a personal level then you’re halfway there, but then doing it for a commercial company is a different kettle of fish altogether. The challenges are more numerous, the obstacles bigger, and the time budget smaller. When you have to get better results in a defined space of time, then simply being an experienced personal user is not enough.
Here’s what you can do to improve your chances of convincing a potential employer or client that you are the right person for the job
1) Have a project you can use for learning and development. For me, this has been my family travel blog, and also my student textbook trading website The Book Pond. Using social media for my own projects has not only improved my technical skills but also has given me a solid insight into the challenges involved. My family travel blog for example is a much easier ‘sell’ than the student textbook website – the articles are more engaging, the audience is there ready to receive free content, and there is a well-developed family blogging community to tap into. The textbook website has been a lot harder and has been mostly tumbleweed. Despite the audience being UK students – who tend to be younger and more receptive – it’s been much harder work. This has helped refine my expectations when it comes to pushing something which is more commercial.
If you don’t have a project where you can develop your skills then you either need to make one, or find one. Is there a local charity you could help, or does a friend run a business that could benefit from using social media? Working on a real-world commercial project really will help you develop and give you valuable experience.
2) Keep up with latest developments. Having a project will help keep you up to date with changes to social media better than anything else, but you can also read industry news – such as from Social Media Examiner or the Buffer blog. Aim to read a couple of articles a week about good practice, or changes, and test new theory on your projects. And don’t just look at those networks with which you are familiar – checking out new networks such as Periscope and Snapchat will keep you one step ahead, even if your clients or new employer isn’t interested in newer media just yet.
3) Improve your literacy skills. I say it time and time again that social media is as much about the quality and presentation of content as anything else. If you can’t spell, learn. If your grammar skills aren’t up to scratch, then get scratching! If I see one more tweet from a ‘professional’ organisation that mixes up they’re/their/there or something similar I will scream. The odd typo or finger slip is forgivable I think – using ‘should of’ instead of ‘should have’ just makes me think I’m dealing with an unprofessional outfit. Your own basic literacy is something you can do something about, and if you don’t agree that good literacy is essential to being a good social media manager, then I can’t help you further.
4) Learn graphic design. Good graphics are increasingly important. Graphics attached to tweets for example, increase retweet rates and grab people’s attention. An update with a graphic is more likely to get through the filter that is Facebook’s algorithm than a straight update without one. Being able to produce reasonable graphics is important – graphic design takes up a good proportion of my day. I don’t have any flashy skills but I can use basic packages such as Canva or PicMonkey to get good reasonably good results. If you’re not familiar with graphic design packages then I suggest you start with these and see how you get on.
5) Learn about the industry you want to promote. If you’re looking for a job in social media in a specific industry, such as recruitment, or retail, then keeping abreast of industry developments is a good idea. What are the current trends in that industry? Who are the competition and what are they doing on social media which seems to be working? In an interview situation it looks good if you’ve made some effort to think about possible social media strategy, and understand the challenges that may be ahead.
The best thing you can do to show you understand social media is to get out there and do it. I’ve talked to so many people who tell me that it sounds like a great career option and they’d love to do it, but they’ve never heard of Pinterest, or don’t know how to use lists in Twitter. If you can show a client or employer that you know your onions, then you stand a better chance of making a career for yourself in social media management.